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Fugly Football Sees Rangers Through to UEFA Cup Finals

 

 

Ciao Fiorentina, Hello Manchester…

It wasn’t pretty, but Sir Walter Smith’s (I’ve just knighted him myself, so shaddup) strategy worked flawlessly as Rangers held the Viola scoreless in Florence, then sacked up during a nervy round of penalty kicks, including the deal-sealer by Nacho Novo (above). Here’s the report.

Rangers are through to their first European final in 36 years, and will face a Zenit side that served up a 4-0 drubbing of Bayern Munich in the other bracket.

Fiorentina may have been the classier side — I’m anticipating Aloysius’s forthcoming comments on the Telegraph message boards already — and they can soothe themselves with that knowledge as they watch the final on television. Snigger snigger.

Now, if Rangers can only survive their final six domestic fixtures to claim the SPL crown, in doubt in large part due to their unexpected European success, how sweet it would be.

 

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A Welcome Draw at Ibrox for Ragged Rangers

With his side decimated by injury and suspensions, Walter Smith’s Rangers bent but didn’t break Thursday, battling to a 0-0 draw on the home leg of the UEFA Cup Semis against a comparatively healthy Fiorentina side, occupiers of the fourth position in the Serie A table. Here’s the report.

Rangers now face with the proposition of advancing to a European final on away goals — never easy, but it seems to be the currency with which Rangers have traded during their 2008 European campaign. Just ask Sporting Lisbon.

Now it’s home to Glasgow for two days’ rest before an Old Firm clash for the ages on Sunday — with the SPL crown potentially hanging in the balance.

 

Battered and Banned Rangers Press On In Search of the Quad

Rangers Supporters Revel

So much has happened since my last post that I won’t even attempt to cover it. However, some highlights…

Not one but two away goals at Sporting Lisbon saw Rangers through to the UEFA Cup Semifinals as the Ibrox side continues its miraculous turnaround season, in which its still in the hunt for four trophies.  Stout defense and opportunistic counters coolly executed were the difference.

That was followed three days later by a HUGE Old Firm fixture at Parkhead. Whew… what a game. Celtic earned the win — aided by Rangers playing on two days rest. The victory was seemingly snatched away when the ever-canny Carlos Cuellar punched away a sure goal by Nakamura late in the second half. It would have been Naka’s second of the game, the first being one of the most incredible strikes I’ve seen this season. But Cuellar unabashedly punched it away and stoically took the red to preserve the draw. But surely the draw would only stand for a moment as the SPL’s leading goal-scorer this season, Scott McDonald, set up for the ensuing penalty kick.  

But Allan McGregor, who was positively limping around on an ankle he injured minutes prior, clutched up, smothering McDonald’s badly telegraphed spot-kick to grow his hero status this season even bigger.  It looked as if Cuellar’s gamble had paid off, bringing gleeful smirks to the Blue Noses. The SPL title, it seemed, would be sealed on this day…

It was not to be, however. A Venegoor of Hesselink header deep into injury time found the mark, giving Celtic a 2-1 win and all three points, extending the Parkhead side’s tenuous 2008 title hopes for another week.

It was Celtic’s first Old Firm win in five tries, but will likely do little to quell the pressure on Gordon Strachan, which is crazy considering Celtic won the SPL  and advanced to the round of 16 in Champions League twice during his tenure. Celtic are two points ahead at the moment, but Rangers have three games in hand. The final Old Firm game of the season on Sunday — again at Parkhead — will be even bigger than the last. 

But before that happens, the first leg of the UEFA Cup Semi-final at home against Fiorentina is also a huge match. And Rangers go in with a long list of key injuries and suspensions. They will have to dig deep to hold off the injury-free Viola on Thursday, only to face a well-rested Celtic three days later. Hold on to your fuggin’ kilts, folks…